Founding (1975) – Early 1980s
Few of the representatives of toy manufacturers from Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States who met in Paris at the end of September 1975 imagined that they were taking part in the creation of a truly global trade association. The meeting, under the chairmanship of Roland Droguet, established ICTI, the International Council of Toy Industries. It is worth recalling the contributions of Henry Coords of Fisher-Price and Walter Armatys in the US, together with Gordon Goude in Britain and Henri Mohy in France, who brought their considerable influence to bear in getting the new industry body off the ground.
The primary motivation for the new association was to respond to the rapid development of toy safety standards in the US and Europe. ICTI was seen as a mechanism for harmonizing existing standards with new products. It established a network of international experts to take charge of future discussions on toy safety standards.
From the outset, it was clear that the delegations were prepared to explore wider fields of common interest so that governments and other organisations could be influenced for the benefit of the toy industry. The second meeting of ICTI, held in Boca Raton in 1976, for example, was given over almost entirely to discussion of a comparative chart of existing requirements. This is when terms such as the truncated cylinder, the sharp point and sharp edge tester and use and abuse tests started to become common currency.
Following meetings in London and New York, ICTI was able to agree on a single world safety standard covering the mechanical and physical properties of toys. This not only offered parents and children throughout the world a wide selection of safe playthings, it vastly facilitated free trade between nations.
This was followed by work on flammability and toxicity of toys, as well as electrical toy safety.
By the early 1980s the scope of ICTI’s activities had widened dramatically. The pooling of information on developments from around the world had added a whole range of subjects that have been on the agenda ever since. These include product recalls, PVC in toys, advertising of toys on television and so-called “war” toys. ICTI had developed a life of its own, and on April 7, 1981, Gordon Goude was appointed permanent secretary.
Ten years after the foundation of ICTI, its membership had been expanded to include Australia, Denmark, Korea, Spain, Sweden and Taiwan; and ICTI had achieved non-voting status at the International Standards Organisation for the work which had now started on an ISO world toy safety standard.
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1980s – 1990s
Although during 1983 the international toy industry had been increasingly worried by developments in the USA in regard to the use of phthalates, such as DEHP, and concern about nitrosamines, ICTI continued also to draw attention to issues such as barriers to trade, counterfeit toys and the threat posed to the toy industry by video games. The regular information exchanges also highlighted the efforts in some countries to encourage the year-round sale of toys. These included opening up a toy fair to the public and promoting the concept of a “Children’s Day”.
ICTI also saw the benefits to the toy industry of promoting much more vigorously the concept of the “value of play”. Experts certainly recognise the physical, therapeutic and educational benefits to children of playing with toys, and emphasising this intrinsic value was seen as a counter to the attacks on toys relating to safety, quality or ethical considerations such as surrounded “war” toys.
The subject of toy industry support for children’s causes came up at every ICTI meeting, and members have developed new ways of benefiting children in need. A good example was the development in Japan of a catalogue of toys suitable for blind and partially-sighted children.
Following the publication of the ICTI toy safety standard in three parts (together with a code of practice for battery operated toys), an ICTI fact book was published that gave basic statistical data on the world toy industry and profiled the aims and work of association.
A major concern of ICTI was the implementation of the European toy safety directive, completed in 1989. The purpose was to harmonize the laws of member states while remaining fully aware that this would lead to some problems for non-EU members. In particular, it was stressed that, although a manufacturer was able to self-certify compliance with the requirements, the directive did contain a requirement to prove conformity of production. There would accordingly be a greater focus on ISO 9000 and similar quality systems that existed throughout the world.
Then, in July 1990, Sweden banned the use of cadmium in toys, and a report appeared that Japan was prohibiting the use of PVC in teethers, a precursor of things to come. Sweden and Quebec Province moved to ban advertising to children, and elsewhere, the toy industry was a frequent target of attacks because of the so-called “war” toys and the issue of sexual stereotyping. It was ICTI’s job to monitor these social issues related to children, toys and play.
At the meeting held in Toronto in May 1991, ICTI took note of the Canadian toy industry’s support for an organisation called “Concerned Children’s Advertisers” which had developed an outstanding programme of public service announcements aimed at drug abuse.
The Toronto meeting also saw the unanimous acceptance by the ICTI members present of ICTI’s first code of conduct. It read as follows:
“The International Council of Toy Industries (ICTI) and its member associations are committed to the promotion of a safe play environment for children and to do all things necessary to achieve this in the areas of adherence to all industry toy safety standards, the observation of ethical advertising of toys and the maintenance of free and fair trade in toys throughout the world.
“All member associations of the Council are subscribers to the following ICTI Code of Conduct:
a) We are firmly committed to the promotion of a safe play environment for children.
b) We accept completely the need for toy manufacturers to recognize and adhere strictly to national and international toy safety standards and to take prompt, effective and appropriate action should a toy safety problem arise.
c) We regard as repugnant the practice of counterfeiting of toys not only as an unfair trading practice but one which may also expose children to product which does not comply with toy safety standards.
d) We are committed to the principle that toy manufacturers should observe good standards in regard to the advertising of toys (for example, the U.S. Children’s Advertising Review Unit’s Guidelines or the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce Code).
e) We shall strive to promote free and fair trade in toys throughout the world.
f) We seek to encourage the development of toys for children who have special needs.
g) We shall actively support children’s causes.”
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2000 – onwards
At the 2000 annual general meeting held in Rome, it was clear that ICTI was facing a growing list of new and emerging issues. The impact of technology on toy design and engineering, the growth in electronic retailing and business to business commerce, increasingly fast communications and the demand for quick response and source tagging had to be dealt with alongside concerns about toy safety and harmonised standards.
Moreover, increased activity from campaign groups was placing an increased focus environmental issues. Although the toy industry used only 1 percent of the PVC manufactured, it was being targeted by environmental groups because the safety of children is such an important issue. Industry was now responding to growing regulations covering packaging and electronic waste, electromagnetic interference and—as an ever-widening issue—the use of chemicals in toys.
Alongside environmental issues, the focus on protecting workers employed in toy factories worldwide gained greater attention in the 2000s. These concerns first arose in the 1990s following factory fires in Bangkok and Shenzhen which brought an increased focus on workers' health and safety in toy factories.
In 1993, a coalition of industry representatives and NGOs gathered in Hong Kong to draft a Charter for the safe production of toys to protect the rights of toy factory workers.
Following the production of the Charter, many large toy brands and retailers created their own Codes of Conduct for facilities manufacturing their products. By the mid 1990s, there were around 70 different Codes of Conducts for ethical toy manufacture, making it very difficult for toy factories to comply with the varying standards of all their customers and creating significant amounts of duplicate auditing in factories.
An industry wide ethical manufacturing standard was called for in the toy industry.
ICTI went on to create the Code of Business Practices in 1995. This ICTI Code of Business Practices represents one unified ethical manufacturing standard for the industry. The next major step forward was taken at the 28th annual general meeting in Beijing in June 2002. ICTI unanimously agreed to launch a worldwide auditing process to implement and certify against the ICTI Code of Business Practices, with the goal of driving convergence, raising standards, and reducing duplication of social audits in the global toy industry supply chain.
In 2004, the ICTI CARE Foundation was created as a not-for-profit organization, working completely independently of ICTI, to oversee the implementation and certification against the ICTI Code of Business Practices.
After over a decade of progress the ICTI CARE Foundation unveiled a new ambitious strategic plan with updated factory assessments and ratings, a new model of engagement for toy brands and retailers, and a refreshed brand to deliver it.
The renamed ICTI Ethical Toy Program was launched in January 2018, marking the next generation of the ethical manufacturing program for the toy industry.
In 2004, the International Council of Toy Industries celebrated its 30th anniversary as the worldwide toy industry association at its annual meeting in Vancouver, Canada by presenting the first annual ICTI award to Concerned Children’s Advertisers based in Toronto. The ICTI award has been created to recognise programmes for outstanding achievement in improving the well-being of children. ICTI members are keen to encourage such media literacy programmes that give children the skills to become well-informed consumers, an issue that has become even more important with the widespread international concern on the subject of child obesity.
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